A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby Bruue1 » Fri Mar 02, 2018 8:15 pm

The welder arrived today and I got the receiver hitch welded to the frame. :applause: This was my first real welding job. I have done two other hack job repairs that turned out fair at best, those were done with a free 115v AC welder I was given. The new welder that came today is the Amico 160 DC Inverter welder off of Amazon for $180 shipped and with tax. It is functional for me. Seems like a good deal.

I was reminded how horrible I am at welding. :o Rather I found out, again. My "beads" did not look anything like I had envisioned in my head. I swore at a few stuck rods :x . All my beautiful prep work, perfectly clean metal, good cuts and no burs.... I ended up with a bunch of burned uneven beads and welds. :NC When looking at the pictures please feel free to have your fun. I'm thick skinned. 8) I am in my later 30s and this was my first real run at welding. Overall I am pleased. Those pictures show the finished product, that is as good as they are going to get.

The positives:
It is solid.
I did not put any holes through any of the metal. I think I came close at least once.
Our camper frame now has a 2" receiver hitch mounted to it. I'm sure it will support anything I am going to put on it.
After wire brushing and grinding off the biggest bumps it doesn't look too horrible.
Its probably comparable to some of the worse looking farm welds I have seen.
It will work and it will be under the camper, out of view, anyways.
I was a little better at welding by the end of the project than I was at the beginning. Emphasis on the word little.
Now I have a welder for just a little more than I would have paid someone more skilled to do this for me. I like the welder, it seems good to me. I'll give it five stars on Amazon. :D

The next pics will be of the floor deck, or maybe some leveling feet but those can go on afterwards. After the floor we'll be building the internal frame.
I am considering two options for the floor. It will be either OSB or a lower grade plywood. I'll rabbet and glue the separate pieces together along the seams. Yes either way it will be a little rough at the seam. The underside will be painted with some exterior paint.

Any thoughts on one floor material over another?

For the underside paint I have just been shopping big box stores, hoping to come across some exterior oil paint on the oops rack. Does anybody have any thoughts on the best way to seal up the underside of the camper?
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby swoody126 » Fri Mar 02, 2018 9:08 pm

GPW, MANY THANKS FOR THE LINK

it took just under 2 hours to skim the high points w/ the mouse ball in warp drive

LOTSA cool ideas & answers

thanks again

sw
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby Don L. » Fri Mar 02, 2018 9:11 pm

For the underside I used some leftover roofing paint, asphalt/aluminum stuff. I used treated 3/4" plywood as the subfloor.
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby Bruue1 » Sat Mar 03, 2018 7:07 pm

Right on Don, sounds like a good option.

I painted the frame today, looks better now that its all one color. I was getting ecited about the floor but I still have a short list of things to do first:

1: Replace the current axle hubs with electric brakes (even if its only 1500lbs completed I still want it to help stop itself)
2: Run all the trailer wiring and good leads for the 12 volt system too
3: Attach the four corner leveling feet
4: I'm going to refinish and re attach the door step too

Thats it, then the floor.
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby swoody126 » Sat Mar 03, 2018 7:40 pm

don't forget to run INDIVIDUAL GROUND WIRES for every 12v component

ground faults are the most common cause of 12v failures(IMHO) and most of those are caused by connection failures to a FRAME BASED GROUNDING SYSTEM

lights outlets and charging points...

just my 2¢ worth tonight

sw
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby GPW » Sun Mar 04, 2018 5:55 am

Swoody’s right, a separate ground wire and good (soldered) connections really make a dependable lighting/electrical system. Here in our humid , salt air climate , trailer frame based ground connections are always a problem . We ran a separate wire for all the grounds , and then hooked that to the trailer frame too … Although the lights don’t use the frame ground at all , the frame IS grounded … ( I don’t know if that really does anything but it seemed like the thing to do ) :NC
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby Bruue1 » Fri Mar 09, 2018 12:03 pm

Dedicated grounds seem like the way to go. I'll be sure to have a fuse in each line too to prevent fire d/t overload.

Overall my electrical camper wiring will be pretty minimal and I should be able to run it around once the walls are up, through the cabinets and such. Its just going to be a couple lights, a vent fan, a water pump, a stereo, the 115 circuit for the 3 way fridge and then just a couple 12v plugs and 115 plugs. Maybe a small TV for movies. It will all be ran through the inverter/controller thingamajig I pulled out of the pop up camper.

The wiring I was talking about recently was just to run the trailer light and brake wiring. It'll include some leads to the battery holder and to general spot where I envision the thingamajig but that will be it. I plan on having it done today. I have a roll of and tons of scrap 4 flat wire around. I also have some slightly larger red and brown wires around maybe like 12 gauge? I have a neat rectangle female plug which mounts flush with the C Channel on the tongue of the camper. Its good, I am going to reuses it. The camper came with an adapter cord that plugs into the rectangle side and will plug into the 7 pin round plug on my TV.

I did get the battery holder and the camper step assembly cleaned and primed today. If the primer dries they might get their first coat of paint tonight. A couple coats of paint and they'll be ready to be re attached. The camper frame looks beautiful now, all flat black, 3 coats of rustoleum brushed on. It looks better than new to me.

I had two good leveling legs from the pop up (the other two were destroyed). I did buy two new leveling legs from ebay early last week, they should be arriving soon? (then I'll have four total)
I'm also waiting on some electric brake assemblies and drums I bought off of etrailer.com to arrive. Hopefully I grabbed the right size. After applying a little research I ended up just taking a good guess. I'm assuming my axle is 3500 ponds. We'll see... I hope my new drums are the right size. My original trailer tire bolt pattern was not the most common size, it was 5 on 4 3/4. Not so rare but not sold at every Big Box Store for an easy spare. The tires I had needed to be replaced anyways. I bought drums with 5 on 4 1/2. This way I should be able to find replacement tires anytime at any store.

This will be the second trailer I have added electric brakes too. The idea was intimidating to me before I did it the first time. I am self taught on almost everything I do relying heavily on You Tube videos. When I did the first trailer I was amazed at how easy it was to do right. The hardest part was adding the brake controller and 7 pin plug to my TV (2011 Highlander). Putting the brakes on the trailer was a piece of cake. The entire project only took a couple hours on two separate afternoons and I was learning as I went. Even with a lighter trailer (1000-2000lbs) having brakes on it made such a huge difference, it felt sooo much safer to have the trailer helping to stop itself. This is me advocating for you to put brakes on your trailers. Its a lot of safety for a little investment. Safety for you and your family, safety for everyone else too.

I was going too fast on a country highway while towing a pop up camper weighing 2000lbs fully loaded, it did not have brakes. I had to stop short, basically sliding around someone stopped in front of me as I came over a hill which was hiding the person from my view. The camper swung out, became detached from the Highlander and was destroyed. My Highlander with my family in it spun around and was facing the other way in the opposite lane of traffic, one tire had lost its bead. I'm so glad I didn't roll, didn't hurt my family or anybody else. I called that day $4000, it could have been much worse. I do think brakes on the pop up camper would have made this bad situation much less dangerous. I will put brakes on every trailer I am towing over 500lbs for the rest of my life. Also , it was quite a slide. I have driven class A trucks with a CDL, as a kid I thought I was a race car driver and destroyed 5 vehicles before I was 18 sliding around and jumping them on purpose. V8 RWD, 4X4s, 4cyl FWD I loved to beat them all. I just want to say that my Highlander is an amazing vehicle, I am convinced the AWD traction control function was a huge factor in helping all of us to come through that with no physical trauma.

Below is a pic of my step assembly and battery holder all primed up. A pic of the painted frame. And the pic of the dexter torsion axle with its current hub. I don't know how to make the thumbnails that get bigger when you click on them.
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CamperPaintedFrame.jpg
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CamperPaintedStepAssembly.jpg
CamperPaintedStepAssembly.jpg (100.5 KiB) Viewed 456 times
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby Bruue1 » Sat Mar 10, 2018 5:39 pm

Electric trailer brake assemblies and drums arrived from ETrailer. today. Everything fits great. Just waiting on the wiring.

Turns out my trailer tires were 5 on 4.5 after all. I need to learn how to measure a rim for bolt pattern. The tires still have mismatched treads and are unevenly worn, but I can use them for now.

Below are pics of the brakes
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Last edited by Bruue1 on Sat Mar 31, 2018 9:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby Bruue1 » Sat Mar 10, 2018 5:54 pm

I got started prepping the camper floor today. I found some tongue and groove 3/4 4x8 douglas fir panels t Menards for $31. They are sealed with a red type of die on the top. They are plyswood and they are lighter than the untreated 3/4 OSB for $26. I'll be putting the treated side up so I can seal the underside with something stronger.

I cut the groove off a piece when I should have cut the tongue off. :oops: Now I'm shopping for a cheap 1/4 slot bit for a router. No big deal but frustrating.

To seal the underside I am using the Rustoleum oil paint I have left over from the trailer frame. I have plenty of paint. After cutting the floor pieces to size I put a coat of white Rustoleum primer on them. The next coat or two will be black Rustoleum paint. I read on a few different places online that this paint will really adhere well to porous wood and will seal it really well. I am confident in it.

The floor will not overhang the trailer frame. It will sit flush with it (probably like 1/16 proud when finished). My total floor area is 130" x 82".

I also took two pieces of 4x8 3/4 birch sanded plywood and ripped them into 3 inch strips. I got 15 8' strips out of each piece. These will be the beginnings of my cabinet type internal frame.

Here are two pics of the floor prep. The primed side will be facing down towards the road. The other pic is of a few of the strips I am talking about.
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Last edited by Bruue1 on Sat Mar 31, 2018 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby KCStudly » Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:17 am

I am enjoying following along on your build.

A little advice, don't underestimate the complexity of an electrical system that you describe, nor the amount of space required to run all of the wires with proper bend radii and air gap space.

I thought my elec. system was going to be "simple", 12v DC only, except for an on board smart charger with 120v port, but by the time you add up all of the ground wires and individual circuits, it can get pretty complicated (trailer lighting routed through cabin walls and hatch, porch and foot lights, dual dome and pillow lights, red night light under rear cabinets, roof fan, supplemental case fan drawing from under cabin, linear hatch actuators with controller, portable solar panel jack, smart charger, galley light in hatch, and full complement of running lights up on the side walls, hatch and eventually on the fenders). I had the advantage of having lots of different colored wires available to keep the different circuits organized. Without that I would highly recommend a label maker that does wire labels.

I spent much more than an evening drawing up a wiring diagram (just to keep everything straight) and a lot more time than that routing wires and such. Something I wish I had spent more time on in the early planning stages of my build (which is something I have heard over and over again from many first time builders). Just saying.
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby GPW » Sun Mar 11, 2018 8:41 am

My electrical system is a GFI extension cord through a hole in the floor … sorta’ bare minimum eh … :o And it actually took a lot of planning and consideration to come up with that …
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby Bruue1 » Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:47 am

GPW I love it! Thats how I have half of my shop wired. No joke. 8) You were talking about being in a marine environment. It dawned on me that in the winter MN is not unlike a marine environment with all the salt we are constantly pouring on our roads. I have never seen a frame mounted ground on a camper that wasn't rusted. Most of our camping is spring and fall but I could see bringing this thing to Mt Bohemia MI next winter for some skiing with the kids. It might be out on some winter roads. I definitely don't want a bunch of circuits grounded all over my frame. I'll be running two wires, 1 there and 1 back for most things.

KCStudly Thanks for the advice. You're right, of course. It can grow and grow, I already found myself adding a porch light. Maybe an under frame light bar (to check for Rattlers) etc... I have seen the thought and planning you put into everything you do. I am much more a draw it once (with a pencil and graph paper), end up cutting twice if I need to type of guy. I am sure you will cringe at some of the wires I run around. I will have a 12v fuse in every circuit. I'll try to do better than I have found in some of the campers I have owned. They manufacturers cover up the 115 wires but they just run the 12 volt wires all around like nothing, often uncovered and loose in storage compartments. Good luck with the ARB cooler, looks like an fun project. 8)

I ordered a new 7 pin pigtail after all. The one I had was not as nice looking as I remembered it, in fact it was all corroded. Can't build a new trailer and put that on it.

The new pigtail I ordered comes with a junction box on the trailer side instead of just a bunch of loose wires. Amazon $35. This junction box inspired me. I ordered some 12 AWG blue and white wire and a box of misc shrink wrap/crimp connectors (rings, butts, spades, different sizes). I was just telling my wife yesterday I am going to do my best to make this wiring job look neat and tidy. The best trailer wiring job I have ever done (which is not saying much) :lol: I am going to try to keep all the trailer wires color coded the whole way. I've never had a trailer with a junction box for the wires before. I'm actually really excited about it. :thumbsup: I will ground the junction box to the frame, but that is probably it for the trailer wiring frame grounding.

The blue and white wires will provide a full color coded circuit for each trailer brake. I'll have full circuits for each trailer light too. I'll probably put a few running lights on a series of their own, they'll be the only lights that share a circuit. If I even put running lights on it.

I am going to the inlaws to celebrate both of their birthdays, which are only two weeks apart. So I am taking today off of the camper build. We will eat fried tacos, my wife has made an awesome lemon cake and we'll drink some sparkling waters. Have a good day guys. Thanks for your interest, suggestions, questions and help. This camper is going to rock. We'll be using it by May.
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby Bruue1 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 7:36 pm

Got my leveling feet trailer plug cord and some wire connectors in the mail today. Also drove down to Owatonna MN (2 hr each way) to buy a scratch and dent RV door for less than half the cost of new. I like the door it looks brand new to me, has rounded corners and black trim just like the windows I have collected.

I put the 7pin connector and the included junction box on the trailer today. Got the leveling feet, the repainted step and battery holder back on the trailer too. I also ran some wire for the electric brakes.

I'm really starting to feel good about this, its picking up momentum. We live in MN. Today I was thinking maybe we'll drive this down to Florida Feb 2019. Go snorkeling in the keys. Stay at the KOA on Key West in one of the spots backing up against the water and the mangroves. I kind of love this camper and what it is beginning to represent to me. It will be so much lighter and functional specific to our needs and wants. We'll be able to fly all over with it.
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CamperTrailerWiring4 copy.jpg
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby Nodrog » Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:04 pm

Hey again - I am using unbleached muslin and titebond II on the interior, it is light and rigid...bought a bolt for .88 a yard in 38 wide...I am cutting the laps as neatly as I can, at corners, etc. I glue it to right up to the corners, then use a 3/4 block to mark with a sharpie or pencil, then cut with scissors, the cloth is thin so these laps barely show. Don't need a lot of weight on the inside...Also, be sure to try PL Premium, if you use packing tape on each side of foam joints or whatever, you can trim the squeeze out with a sharp utilityknife, I have a bunch of the small ones, push the blade out a few inches, the blade will ride on top of the tape and cut the adhesive off neatly when itis not too hard yet....does that make sense?? ok....better get going....Nodrog
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Re: A Tiny Travel Trailer for a Family of Four

Postby Bruue1 » Wed Mar 14, 2018 6:02 pm

Got a little further today:

Trailer wiring is all done. Its all color coded and all the connections are crimped and heat shrunk. I love having that cheap little plastic junction box for the trailer wires, it really cleans everything up.

I got the floor all cut to size and laid it on the trailer frame. Now we're getting to the fun stuff. The floor is some 3/4 tongue and groove douglas fir plywood they sell at the local box store as a subfloor option for new construction. I have the underside sealed with Rustoleum Metal Primer.

This trailer is starting to look like something. Next I'll glue these floor panels together, then start screwing pieces of wood to them. I won't attach the floor to the trailer frame until the exterior of the camper is wrapped in either canvas or fiberglass screen... :NC I still don't know the exterior will be for sure. I keep flip flopping.
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CamperTrailerWiring13.jpg
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CamperFloor copy.jpg
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